U. S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, 514 U.S. 779, 27 (1995)

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Cite as: 514 U. S. 779 (1995)

Opinion of the Court

prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof." Art. I, 4, cl. 1. This duty parallels the duty under Article II that "Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors." Art. II, 1, cl. 2. These Clauses are express delegations of power to the States to act with respect to federal elections.17

This conclusion is consistent with our previous recognition that, in certain limited contexts, the power to regulate the incidents of the federal system is not a reserved power of the States, but rather is delegated by the Constitution. Thus, we have noted that "[w]hile, in a loose sense, the right to vote for representatives in Congress is sometimes spoken of as a right derived from the states, . . . this statement is true only in the sense that the states are authorized by the Constitution, to legislate on the subject as provided by 2 of Art. I." United States v. Classic, 313 U. S. 299, 315 (1941). Cf. Hawke v. Smith, No. 1, 253 U. S. 221, 230 (1920) ("[T]he power to ratify a proposed amendment to the Federal Constitution has its source in the Federal Constitution. The act of ratification by the State derives its authority from the Federal Constitution to which the State and its people have alike assented").

In short, as the Framers recognized, electing representatives to the National Legislature was a new right, arising from the Constitution itself. The Tenth Amendment thus provides no basis for concluding that the States possess reserved power to add qualifications to those that are fixed in the Constitution. Instead, any state power to set the qualifications for membership in Congress must derive not from the reserved powers of state sovereignty, but rather from the delegated powers of national sovereignty. In the absence of any constitutional delegation to the States of power to add qualifications to those enumerated in the Constitution, such a power does not exist.

17 The Clauses also reflect the idea that the Constitution treats both the President and Members of Congress as federal officers.


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